Being James Bond or in this case Clark Devlin, is 90% clothing and 10% personal effort. But being a spy means dressing better than just any old Armani. In The Tuxedo we’re talking state of the art, high tech dinner wear with the power to make even a lowly cab driver an ass kicking super spy. When high paid master of intrigue Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs) goes down, it’s up to his simple limo driver, Jimmy Tong (Jackie Chan) to put it on and kick in a one two punch for truth, justice, and the Jennifer Love Hewitt plunging neckline way.
I have been and remain a huge fan of Jackie Chan. His older work is a stunning display of the kind of things one can do with guts and style instead of the modern high tech mumbo jumbo. His newer films continue that tradition, while mixing in elements of humor to create movies of real innocence and charm.
Because it is Jackie himself that makes it all so doggone amusing, his natural likeability could make it easy to overlook the glaring flaws of The Tuxedo. Even In the murkiest of movie sludge, Jackie has a tendency to shine through like an unstoppable beacon of coolness.
But lets get one thing straight: The Tuxedo is utter crap. I don’t know who wrote it and I don’t care enough to find out. On the surface, its concept seems ripe for just the kind of fun loving, comedic action at which Jackie excels. Cast again in the role of a hapless idiot, Jackie ends up in what is basically a magic suit that gives him the abilities and the life of the suave, dangerous, and debonair. Somehow though, The Tuxedo botches it and goes to far. The high-tech tuxedo itself becomes more than just an excuse for Jackie to perform cool stunts and karate moves and turns his character into the high tech equivalent of an Asian Superman. Jackie doesn’t need wires tied to his ass to make him fly. He doesn’t need goofy matrixy trick photography to make him RULE. Jackie Chan is and should be used as a masterful stuntman who does things for REAL without any of this wholly outlandish mumbo jumbo.
Set Jackie Chan free. Let him do what he does. Give him the room he needs to use his amazing sense of comedic timing and cooler-than-god kick ass abilities to make your film a winner. Tuxedo director Kevin Donovan just doesn’t get it. So while from time to time our loveable character Jimmy, with some aid from the awkwardly used but supremely charming Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt) skirts around the clingy dung of this script, you can’t help but notice everything getting bogged down. There are lulls. Long lulls. Heck, except for the opening scene the first half of the movie is all one big lull. It’s only towards the end that things actually get interesting, as the plot is mostly thrown out the window giving both Chan and Jennifer Love a little room to breathe. That’s fortunate because with a hackneyed story lifted straight from a 1950’s cereal box, The Tuxedo is left with only the sheer talent of its cast to fall back on.
They pull it off. Just barely. The ending helps you forget the hour of boredom that came before, even if you don’t get much REAL Jackie Chan magic and are forced to watch him engage in the unholy arts of wire-on-my-ass-fu. Even bit parts, like that of uber-spy Clark Devlin are oddly well played almost in spite of being badly written. There are a few spaced out laughs thrown in and the usual Chan outtakes with the credits guarantee you leave smiling.
I really went looking to like this. Chan is a master of action-comedy, to which a film like The Tuxedo seemed ideally suited. But he can’t make it work if he isn’t given the chance to simply be himself. I walked out ambivalent and unmoved. The Tuxedo’s cast sells it well enough to keep it from utterly falling apart, yet its script and direction does little to actually recommend it. Perhaps the lesson here is to realize when your cast is more talented than you and let them lead the way when the material you’ve been given no longer can. Still, though Chan may be the only man in the world who doesn’t actually look all that dashing in a tux, there’s something just a little bit appealing about a karate kicking sharp-dressed man.